Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Fall Lawn Care Do's and Don'ts for the Midwest

Now that Fall is officially here, it's time to pay special attention outside to get your yard prepped for Winter. One of the most difficult aspects of being a novice home gardener is learning the rules of the what and when, as one little mistake can result in the loss of plants.  We have learned a lot from trial and error over 20 years of home ownership, which I have shared here on the blog from time to time.

It is time to get our cornstalks in place, get a tad more spooky, and spend some time in the yard to officially transition to Fall.  As we shift our own focus outside this week at Casa de Nenonen, I figured it is a great time to share my do's and don'ts for Fall. Let's face it, this is a busy time of year and daylight time is limited with the shorter days.  Focus your energy on what you can and should do now, and leave the Fall "don'ts" for when the warm weather returns to the Midwest.

Do's

Do aerate, fertilize, and seed your lawn.
As temperatures drop, grasses put their energy into developing roots. If you only aerate, fertilize, and seed your lawn ONCE during the year, Autumn is the time to do it in the Midwest!  It is your best shot at a lush yard throughout the rest of the year.

Steve and I actually hire a lawn service for our Fall care and it is WELL worth the money spent, approximately $167 for their Fall package.  If you have bare patches in your lawn from puppy play, as WE do, this is also a terrific time to request they overseed.  

Tip: Learn from our mistake- it is easy to burn your lawn with fertilizer so apply with caution. 

Do divide perennials.
It'a time to divide your perennials, particularly if they've become so crowded that they bloom less.  This is also a fantastic time to split a large clump into smaller clumps to plant elsewhere. Generally, in Fall you can divide perennials that bloom in Spring or early Summer.

Do mow like crazy
Leaving leaves on the grass over winter can actually hinder Spring growth.  Keep the lawn as clean as possible before the 1st snow. That is what teenagers are fabulous for, at least in our house where they appreciate a little more spending money. ;)

Do corrective pruning.
After the leaves fall from trees and bushes, branches that are broken or scrape against the house are easier to spot and get to. Make the cut where they meet a larger branch or the trunk. Reminder not to leave a stub, as it won't heal and leaves the plant vulnerable to disease.

Do plant.
Fall is the only time to plant spring-flowering bulbs!  Sink the tulips, daffodils, and crocus NOW.   You can plant bulbs until the ground is too frozen to dig. Fall is also a solid time to plant trees, shrubs, perennials, and ornamental grasses. Although you can plant them until the ground is frozen, their chances for survival improve if you plant in early fall, giving them more time to develop roots. Remember to water generously if we don't have a rainy Fall.

Do control weeds.
Perennial lawn weeds such as dandelions and violets get their second wind once the weather cools and ironically are most susceptible to attack during this time. In our current house, we have been successful in keeping weeds at bay but fought a continuous violet infestation at our last house.  Wage war NOW!  If you pay special attention to your weeds in the Fall, they will be less of a burden in the Spring.

Do protect from deer
Got deer? Particularly if you live West of I-270 in St. Louis, I guarantee that you have had a tree trunk annihilated by the Fall scraping of the antlers.  Simply, bucks do this.  Buy corrugated tubes and protect your young tree trunks.  Just do it.


Don'ts

Don't shear spring flowering shrubs.
Shaping or lopping off length of Spring-flowering shrubs during the Fall removes the buds that produce next year's flowers. YOU WILL REGRET THIS MISTAKE COME SPRING, I ASSURE YOU FROM EXPERIENCE.  If you must control their size, cut off the longest branches at their base - you'll make them more compact and still enjoy flowers next spring.

Don't fertilize trees and shrubs.
Fertilizing stimulates tender new growth that won't have time to toughen up before winter. If your woody plants need fertilizer, wait until the Spring.

Don't cut back ornamental grasses and attractive perennials.
Wait until Spring growth starts before cutting back ornamental grasses and perennials that look decent in winter. Not only do they give you a little something to look at during the cold months, but their stems trap leaves and snow around the base of the plant, which protects the roots from freezing.